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Good pitching can cover up some deficiencies on the baseball diamond.
Sixth-year Southview coach Ed Mouch can attest to that with his light-hitting Cougars this season.
Southview (17-9) will face Anthony Wayne (21-8) in today’s 5 p.m. Division I regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University’s Stellar Field, and this opportunity can be attributed to the Cougars’ pitching in tournament play.
In their opener, a sectional final, senior right-hander Alexander Theiss blanked Start 1-0.
Theiss was then one strike away from his second straight shutout before holding on for a 2-1 upset victory over top-seeded St. John’s Jesuit, Ohio’s 10th-ranked team, in the district semifinal.
Southview got its third straight solid tourney start Saturday from junior lefty Tyler Stambaugh, who held defending district champion St. Francis de Sales to one run through six innings before being relieved in an 8-3 win in the district final.
“Record-wise I guess we could’ve been under the radar,” Mouch said of the tourney run, “But we’ve known we’ve had a good team all year long. It was just a matter of putting all three aspects of the game — pitching, hitting, and defense, together at the same time.
“We’ve had two of them — the pitching and defense — all year. It’s the hitting that’s come around over the last weeks, and that’s made us more of a complete team. It’s a little bit of a surprise but I knew we had it in us. It was just a matter of whether we were going to get it out this year.”
Through the district final, the Cougar staff had allowed just 147 hits and 68 runs (43 earned) in 177 innings for a team ERA of 1.70, and Southview’s pitchers had held opposing hitters to a .230 batting average.
Theiss is 6-2 with an 0.54 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.
Senior Griffin McDonald is 5-0 with an 0.75 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28 innings, Stambaugh is 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings, and sophomore Sam Stout is 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.
“As a staff, we have multiple people who can throw,” Theiss said. “Tyler, Griffin, Sam, and I. And we have a deep bullpen, too. Our pitching really keeps us in close games. Even if we aren’t scoring runs, our pitching has kept us in most games all year.
“I call us more of a sleeper pick in this. Not a lot of people thought we could do this, but our team believed we could. We’re a pretty confident team right now, and I think that’s going to carry over to [today’s game].”
The pitching numbers, along with Southview’s team fielding percentage of .963, have enabled the Cougars to offset some less-than-impressive offensive numbers.
As a team, Southview is hitting .252 (169 for 672), with just 38 extra-base hits — three home runs, five triples, and 30 doubles. Not exactly figures that weaken the knees of enemy pitchers.
Just two Cougars are hitting above the .300 mark — sophomore Nick Vlasnik is batting .377 (23-for-61) with 14 RBIs and 13 runs scored, and junior Colin Boerst is batting .333 (26-for-78) with 11 RBIs and a team-high 17 runs.
“We know we’ve been a little below average during the season,” Boerst said. “We weren’t doing what we expected to do. But we kept talking about that ‘second season’ we were going to have [in the tournament], and everything came together.
“Beating St. John’s and St. Francis — those are two great teams, and we finally showed up to play and did what we needed to do. It feels great. This is what we expected.”
The RBI leader is Griffin McDonald (.284 average) with 15, and junior second baseman/outfielder Tre Simms (.293) has scored 16 runs.
“I just think we know what it takes to win now, and we’re getting everything together and playing as a team,” McDonald said. “Even in the dugout, we’re getting up more than we have all year. Everyone’s into the game and we’ve got things going right now.
“I knew we were capable of it, but through the season I didn’t know if it was going to happen with the way we were playing. Lately, though, we’ve come together as a team and I like the way we’re playing. We’re loose and definitely confident. We’re not uptight like we were earlier in the year.”
Southview was able to execute its upset of St. John’s thanks to timely RBI singles in the third inning from McDonald and Stambaugh, and then splurged for eight runs on nine hits in the win over St. Francis.
“We expected this from the beginning,” Stambaugh said. “We were a little up-and-down throughout the season. But we had a lot of guys return, and we had all of our pitching back. So, we expected to be here.
“It has to do with our seniors. They had great leadership and they kept the team positive, and kept the team going.”
In its matchup with Anthony Wayne, Southview will be hoping for more of that timely hitting, and also that the third time will be the charm. The Cougars lost their NLL games against the Generals, 3-2 and 1-0.
“They’re a very solid team,” Mouch said. “We’ve played two games with them and they’ve both been one-run games. It just comes down to who makes mistakes and who doesn’t. We’ll see where we can go and try to keep it rolling.”
Mouch, who is 99-62 at Southview, previously guided the Cougars to a regional semifinal in 2010, when the Cougars lost to Perrysburg. Mouch also coached St. John’s to a regional final in 2004.